For over a decade parents have looked at their children in horror when they have asked for Grand Theft Auto as a present. This is an appropriate response, there is no way in heck that you let children play that game. Yet I sympathize with parents who have to deal with the continued poking and prodding. If you are one of those parents who I have witnessed at the local game store giving in despite warnings from the employees, the sound you are currently hearing is me giving you a stern look RIGHT NOW.
What parents don’t realize about GTA is that it isn’t the violence and misogyny that make the game fun. The mystique about the game may have originated with one ten year telling another about the exploits of casual murder, but if you speak with someone who has actually played you will quickly find that open world layout, the ability to do whatever you want and the sense of exploration through a sprawling story is what draws people in. Like a long story arc in Sons of Anarchy, you don’t support the violence, but how it plays out is abstractly interesting.
Why did I write two paragraphs about a game I am not even reviewing? GTA gives us a framework to talk about a game that is almost exactly the same thing, yet safe for kids and funny enough where adults won’t want to poke their eyes out.
Open world (check), complete freedom to finish missions in the way you see fit (check), tons of vehicles, collectibles, secrets and pop culture references (check). The most violent act you can commit in Lego City Undercover is knocking someone over and having them be grumpy about it. If you or your child dig Lego, then this should keep them occupied for hours.
What surprises me about LCU is how funny the writing is. TT Fusion, the development studio would have been able to get away with making a game just for kids, phoning in the jokes and coasting on the strength of previous titles in the Lego franchise. Instead we get a perfection of the Lego formula, strong writing and characters and deep homages to seventies and eighties cop movies that will make only the biggest movie nerds chuckle. All this gives the game depth and a professionalism that is refreshing. Art for arts sake instead of cashing the check from the production company.
I maintain that the Wii U is an excellent piece of hardware that I wish more people adopted. It is possible that Nintendo will figure it out this year and turn around the platform like they did with the 3DS, which a couple of years after launch is selling out at retail outlets all over the place. With games like this the platform is worth investing in. Lego City Undercover is an excellent cornerstone game for the platform, is enjoyable to play and watch and if you have a Wii U should be a purchase.